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Geopolitical and Geo-economic Dimensions of Covid-19

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  • Published
    2nd Nov, 2020
  • The existing international institutions such as the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council and the World Health Organization (WHO) are seen to have failed to measure up to the grave challenge posed by the pandemic.
  • The UN Security Council is under attack for being slow in dealing with a situation that appears, at least on the surface, far graver than any military threat in recent decades.
  • The WHO has been tarred with the charge of bias and of grossly underestimating the nature of the epidemic.
  • Notably, the US has shown no inclination to play a leadership role to harness international cooperation. China has blocked discussions in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the issue.
  • Even if China emerges relatively better in economic terms over the long-term, it will have to contend with the consequences of the worldwide resentment it has generated, as it is seen as the main cause of the predicament.
  • A similar narrative is gaining strength in East Asia, ASEAN countries, India, Africa and the EU. There is a growing realisation and acknowledgement of the predatory nature of China.
  • There were significant changes in the global power equations even before the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, such as the shift in the centre of gravity of economic power to the trans-Pacific from the Trans-Atlantic, the emergence of a more loosely structured multi-polarity, the upsurge of nationalist and parochial sentiments in countries across the world stalling the trend towards globalisation.
  • There is a notable acceleration in the adoption of digital technologies; in fact, we are witnessing “galloping globalisation” in the digital space, including the extensive spread of work-from-home (WFH), the rapid adoption of tele-education and tele-medicine and the use of tele-conferencing and online meetings in place of physical gatherings.
  • It is believed that the pandemic has provided China with an opportunity to advance its interests vis-a-vis other powers particularly the US. This may be seen in the recent coercive actions in the South China Sea, the passage of a highly restrictive National Security Law in Hong Kong, virtually abandoning the One Country Two System policy granting high degree of autonomy to the key international financial centre in Asia.
  • China’s GDP is destined to overtake the US and this makes it a great economic power, however, in per capita terms it still lags behind. Its per capita GDP is only a quarter of the US.
  • There could be a significant flow of capital, technology and advanced knowledge to India if an efficient and congenial economic and regulatory environment could be put in place. The size of the Indian market is an asset as is its political stability and democratic traditions. Economic reforms may be politically difficult but the pandemic is a crisis which could provide an opportunity to drive them.

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